Miraz Manji: Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneur

Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneur is Miraz Manji, Founder of TLAC Toronto Printing & Publishing, an innovative 2D/3D design, digital & print publishing technology company headquartered in Toronto that specializes in e-book publishing, 3D printing estimates, event printing, custom self-publishing, and book cover design…


Elevator Pitch: Describe your job in a nutshell.
My job is to design systems for scalable growth, recruit investors, employees, customers, and partners, strategically plan for the long term, and problem solve. I make sure my company grows sustainably with the ability to adapt in a constantly changing business environment. I ensure our customers are receiving the highest standard of service, and that our team has the systems in place to make their project management experience as efficient as possible.

Why did you start working at your company? What was the inspiration for this career route?
I started TLAC Printing & Publishing many years ago while in my last year of undergraduate studies, because I felt it would create a more intensive learning opportunity than doing an MBA. I wanted to go out and create something instead of sitting in a class and listening to lectures. I also wanted to make money, have freedom and make an impact. I came from an immigrant family, and we didn’t have a lot of money, so I felt I had to create opportunities for myself.

My inspirations are my dad, mom, grandmother, and grandfather. My mother went back to school at the age of 40 and received her doctorate in Social Work from Wilfrid Laurier. My grandmother was the first female dental hygienist in Kenya, East Africa.

Breaking barriers is in my blood – both my father and my grandfather were entrepreneurs who created something from nothing. Both experienced severe loss and fought to survive when everything was taken from them. I believe that I need to strive and thrive because they survived, and I project this standard on the community I serve.

What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
The best part is seeing an emotional or intellectual process, making a small change to a business system or writing a piece of code, seeing it empower the team members, and watching it accelerate the scalability and profitability of our business model.

The freedom to innovate every day is incredibly rewarding. We recently launched a new venture in TLAC Studios to leverage our intellectual property, engineering, and entrepreneurial expertise. We fund new projects and collaborate with entrepreneurs focusing on New Media Publishing, the Internet of Things, and Big Data to create globally scalable MVPs (Minimum Viable Products).

At TLAC Printing & Publishing, I love hearing the excitement in a client’s voice when they are holding a printed copy of their self-published book. Pitching our newest author’s book to our colleagues in the film industry is always a lot of fun too.

Additionally, I also love getting the most irate and frustrated customer on the phone and listening to them go from threatening the team to increasing their order. The challenge of stepping up to a client who is taking advantage of our great service and steering them back into alignment is a real high.

The most challenging part of my day is making sure I don’t get caught up in the small stuff and staying focused on the bigger vision. TLAC stands for Think Like A Champion, which is what we strive to do day in and day out.

What is one sign that you’ve seen over the years to suggest that your work/life balance is off?
Frequent visits to McDonald’s for a Quarter Pounder… if I am ordering a Quarter Pounder, not going to the gym regularly, and my default answer is becoming “well, I will just do it myself” – then I know my work/life balance is off.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
At the forefront of 3D printing & prototyping, working closely with more fortune 500 partners, and leveraging a large publishing library.

What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career?  How did you overcome it?
Myself. I had to overcome my own ego and learn that there were things I didn’t yet know. As I got older I really capitalized on the opportunities I was given to grow and to learn. I also made a point to read and surround myself with people who would push me and test me to be a better person and expect more from myself and my team.

What does success look like to you? Does Money = Happiness?
Success is constantly creating higher goals for yourself and sustainably breaking right through any obstacles in the way. The reality is, you need money to be happy, not because it creates happiness, but because it creates opportunities to provide, create, and participate in things that lead to happiness.  Eating healthy, personal trainers, business coaching, travel, transportation, etc. – all these things cost money. My personality is constantly motivating me to create opportunities, provide, build systems, create teams, and grow.  When I am thriving and providing, I am happy.

What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
Being asked to participate in the elite Next Founders program and receiving the Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year award from the Toronto Board of Trade.

Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Read, read, and then read even more. Read everything about everything – know what is really happening in the world and in the markets. Make sure your sources are reliable – know where your information is coming from and why. Keep your mind sharp and your technical skills up to date (the Internet and night school are both great for that). Also, get married early so you can focus on growth and not get distracted by shallow relationships. Promote your partner and encourage them to grow. Do things that make you uncomfortable, including asking for advice from professionals. Your ability to communicate, problem solve, and negotiate a win/win relationship will develop into an extraordinarily rare and valuable skill throughout your professional career.

Where is your favourite place to wine/ dine in your city and why?
Freshii on University Ave. I prefer short and frequent meetings where we can eat healthy food that leaves me feeling intellectually stimulated, energized, and focused. The one that opened up on 525 University Avenue has a great vibe.

When you’re not working how do you love to spend your “Me” time?
I am always optimizing a system to be more efficient or learning a new technique to improve my effectiveness, but when I do take time for myself, I like to do something outside of my comfort zone like sky diving or the mud hero obstacle challenge.

Where is your favourite place to travel? Why?
I like Costa Rica and New York. Costa Rica is relaxing and the rain forest grounds me. New York gets my engines going and makes me want to go out and conquer.

If you had to choose a theme song, what would it be?
LL Cool J’s Mama Said Knock You Out – Monday through Wednesday.

Darth Vader’s Imperial March – on Thursday. 

Frank Sinatra’s My Way – Fridays through Sunday.

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?

Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
It’s important for our culture at TLAC to give meaning to our work and partner with our community, which is why we negotiated for space in SickKids’ administration building. Every month we walk into SickKids hospital and write a cheque directly to SickKids Patient Care – which is an awesome feeling.

We also support the Aga Khan Development Network, a global organization with the highest integrity rating for the use of charitable funds. I have seen first-hand the difference they have made in third world countries.

Finally, we support Emily’s House, a little known children’s hospice in Toronto at Broadview and Gerrard that treats the whole family (not just the child) by providing a loving environment equipped with medical staff, beds and play therapists.

What to you is notable?
The milestones and skills that you and your team achieve which are just outside of your comfort zone, and perhaps at one time, seemed nearly impossible. The little wins that lead up to the big win are also notable. While we love to celebrate the big wins, we have come to appreciate the journey and have found the people who set us up for success along the way to be equally notable.

Blackberry, iPhone, Android, or Other?
iPhone today, likely an Android tomorrow.